By Stephanie Smith
As someone who coordinates international travel logistics for tens of thousands of people a year, I don’t place much of a premium on being lost. My life is consumed with details— spreadsheets of data tracking the when, where and how of daily itineraries to ensure everything runs seamlessly. In other words: it’s not often that I find myself standing puzzled and alone on a foreign street corner—wondering if I’m going to make it to my destination.
If you’ve ever been to Israel, you know how seriously this nation takes ‘Shabbat’. The Sabbath isn’t just an extra weekend day for catching up on sleep and squeezing in more errands. It is a spiritual guidepost that dictates every aspect of life. Walking down the major thoroughfare that only yesterday had been teeming with lights, cars and busy people, I couldn’t help but stare in amazement at complete lack of activity. Shops were closed. Cafes were vacant. I was one of just a handful of people spread throughout the entire square.
It was a ten minute walk from my hotel to the small Messianic Jewish congregation I had been invited to worship with that morning. The GPS in my phone was guiding me to the address, but as I reached the area, I saw nothing that looked like a church building, and had no way of contacting the pastor for specific directions. I stood there wondering if I had taken a wrong turn, or if I would make it to church at all that day.
Just as I was about to give up, I noticed a young woman climbing out of a van she had just parked. Since she was the only person around, I decided it was worth asking her if she could help me. It turns out she was on her way to the church! She led me through a small, unmarked green doorway that was built into a wall. As we approached the structure just beyond it, I heard the voices of Believers conversing in Hebrew as the service began.
The words to the worship songs, projected on the wall, were in Hebrew. But beside them was an English transliteration allowing me and others to join in. When it was time for the Scripture reading from the Book of Leviticus, I opened my Bible (in English, of course) to chapter 13. It was difficult to follow along with which verse was being read aloud in Hebrew, but I found my place whenever they came to a word I recognized: man, woman, house, seven.
Let me be clear: I felt incredibly blessed to be part of this small group of Bible-believers in the ancient land of my faith—if even for a day. The pastor is a close family friend who, years ago, flew all the way to California to attend my wedding. Among these kindred spirits, I was genuinely received. Yet, despite the warm welcome, I was aware of how I was separated by language, by cultural norms—of how lost I was in this foreign, holy land. I had no idea, as I sat down for the sermon, that God was about to speak to me about this very feeling.
Bringing it Home
The guest speaker that day, also not Israeli, preached a message that was close to his heart. He shared on the inheritance we have as those adopted into the family of God. He understood the significance of adoption in a deeper way after his family adopted children of their own. Within the biblical paradigm of being grafted into the family of God, I as a Gentile Believer have the same rights of sonship that the natural-born children of God (represented by the Messianic Jews I was worshipping alongside) do. The message was clear and unmistakable: our identity doesn’t lie in where we find ourselves, but in the fact that we find ourselves in the family of God.
…Even when we have no idea what words we’re singing, what verses we’re reading or even where in the world we are. None of that really matters. What matters is that we are children of God.